Good communication in peer recognition creates better remote work satisfaction

Good communication in peer recognition creates better remote work satisfaction

April 16, 2024

Soft skills are even more important than technical skills in achieving strong workplace results in the longer term. Even though AI and technology dominate a lot of business planning, the fact is humans are still the decision makers and managers, and most successful business outcomes are based on productive workplace relationships. Many experts are now emphasizing the importance of soft skills in the workplace – and the vital importance of positive relationships and collaboration between team members and peers, especially in remote and hybrid modes of work. In this context, good communication in peer recognition creates better remote work satisfaction.

in a 2023 article, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky wrote about the importance of soft skills such as communication:

…the share of job postings on LinkedIn mentioning GPT or ChatGPT has increased by 21x since November 2022. But – and this is what I’m paying most attention to right now – there is also an increase and demand in soft skills such as communication and flexibility. In fact, 72% of US executives agree that soft skills are more valuable to their organization than AI skills.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills, which a 2019 McKinsey article says are commonly defined as non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, are vital to organizations and can impact culture, mindsets, leadership, attitudes and behaviors.

There are many ways a lack of soft skills such as dependability, time management and critical thinking can derail an employee with solid technical skills. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89% of recruiters say when a recruit doesn’t work out, it usually comes down to a lack of soft skills.

Soft skills are included in the following categories

  1. Advanced communication and negotiation skills
  2. Interpersonal skills and empathy
  3. Leadership and management skills
  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  5. Adaptability and continuous learning skills
  6. Teaching and training skills

Personal communication-based skills include the abilities to provide constructive feedback, listen effectively and reflect, along with openness, honesty and trust. Developing these skills can quickly improve effectiveness within an organization.

Bringing the ‘human’ element back to work with employee recognition

To determine the extent to which employees are valued by recognition of their contributions, Gallup and Workhuman conducted a joint international survey in 2022 of 7,636 adults from all US States and 5,551 adults from 11 Western European countries. Results clearly showed that recognition is essential for building strong workplaces, and represents a significant opportunity for workplaces to prepare for the future. Despite recognition being a fundamental employee need, the survey found only one in four employees worldwide strongly agreed they had received recognition for their work in the past week.

There are new pressures on organizations to be more mindful of their human element. These are apparent in recent trends, including declines in employee engagement and increased demands for workplace flexibility, along with the volatility of the job market itself. Employers cannot simply offer jobs; they must create an environment in which employees want to work and can be at their best

The future of work starts with showing employees that they are valued now. Recognition is a simple way organizations can demonstrate their investment and commitment to their employees and inspire them to feel connected, confident and cared about – ensuring they apply the full force of their human power at work.

Organizations can show they care by celebrating who employees are as well as their capabilities. When employees are recognized for their contributions and achievements, they feel that they matter.

Analysis of thousands of employees’ perspectives — from frontline workers to managers and senior leaders – converges on a key message that is more critical now than ever: Recognition isn’t just a nice-to-have; it is a core people-based element in the employee experience that drives engagement, performance and retention.

Giving and receiving recognition is one way to form new relationships, connect with team members and dissolve tensions amid diverse goals, priorities or approaches. According to the Gallup-Workhuman report, only about a quarter of employees (27%) strongly agree they have meaningful connections with their co-workers, but those who receive recognition from peers at least a few times a month are twice as likely to strongly agree than those who receive it less often. There is no doubt that peer recognition creates better remote work satisfaction and engagement. When that recognition is high-quality, the impacts are even greater.

Peer recognition is important to all generations

All working generations prefer to receive recognition just as much from their peers as from a boss, as found in the 2022 Gallup-Workhuman survey. Employees seek more recognition earlier in their career than in later years. Younger employees need more recognition than more experienced employees. More than a third of Generation Z employees would like recognition at least a few times a week, whereas around a quarter of Millennials also prefer it that way, and fewer Generation X (17-20%) and Baby Boomers (around 17%).

This greater need for recognition by the younger workers is part of their development. Recognition boosts their confidence, reinforces good work and builds strong working relationships. Recognition builds talent for the future: How younger employees are recognized now will determine their future performance and potential, as well as their organizational commitment in future.

Remote and hybrid work challenge working relationships

Remote workers experience three types of virtual distance: physical, operational, and affinity, according to Rachel Montañez, writing a 2024 Harvard Business Review article. Leaders and managers may have less influence on the first two types:

  1. Physical distance refers to employees who work in different time zones and geographies.
  2. Operational distance refers to the tools, policies, or procedures that may inhibit successful collaboration, such as poor virtual connections, ineffective workflows, or miscommunication.
  3. Affinity distance refers to the quality of connection (liking for and understanding) among coworkers. Building community can be enhanced by the quality of relationships among remote coworkers.

A 2024 Zapier article listed some of the main remote work challenges as:

  • Working too much
  • Prioritizing and self-motivating with work
  • Collaboration difficulties and lack of personal visibility
  • Interruptions – mainly domestic
  • Bad health habits – sitting daily for too long, being too close to the fridge and food
  • Loneliness and lack of human interaction
  • Communication issues with team members
  • Technology hiccups
  • Lack of team spirit.

Other firms have listed up to 15 remote work challenges.

Due to various negativities of remote work, it is vital to develop positive workplace relationships. Relationship building is fundamental in team engagement and employee retention. People who report having friends at work are happier and perform better, which makes sense because success is based on functioning as a team rather than as an individual. Good interpersonal communication is vital to developing positive workplace relationships.

How good relationships contribute to team success:

  • Collaboration depends on how comfortable people are with one another
  • People are most engaged at work when they see colleagues as friends
  • Positive relationships help teams have successful difficult conversations
  • Respectful workplace relationships contribute to inclusion at work
  • When people trust their peers, it’s easier to admit to mistakes and learn.

Peer recognition creates better remote and hybrid work engagement

A New York Times article in March 2024 reported that Covid obliged more than half of US workers to change to remote or hybrid work mode in 2020, but now “workplaces have reached a new hybrid-work status quo. Roughly one-tenth of workers are cobbling together a combination of work in the office and from home, and a similar portion are working entirely remotely.” Therefore, in 2024 about 20% of US workers look like remaining in hybrid/remote mode – a sizable number.

Connected and included

Keeping employees connected to their organization’s culture has been a common concern in the new era of remote and hybrid work. The 2022 Gallup-Workhuman report concluded that “Recognition is a simple and effective part of the solution.”

As a culture-building tactic, recognition creates a consistent source of positive regard that allows employees to participate in the culture and benefit from it, regardless of their working circumstances. When employees – remote, hybrid or on-site – get the right amount of recognition, they feel more connected to their organization’s culture. As the chart, right, shows, employees want to be recognized just as much by peers as by their boss: peer recognition is important to them.

Image: Gallup-Workhuman report – “Transforming workplaces through recognition,” 2022.

According to a study by software company Oracle, 1,500 workers across Europe said when asked, “Who has greater influence on employee engagement?” responded as follows:

  • 42% said peers
  • 21% said line managers
  • 7% said unit managers
  • 3% said HR

Soft skills like employee recognition are central to successful tech role

The soft skills of employee recognition, including peer recognition programs, provide vital support to workers who would otherwise be feeling lonely and left out – and increasingly unproductive in their jobs. Research discussed in a 2022 article (“The loneliness of the hybrid worker”) in the MIT Sloan Management Review, reported that the quality, frequency, and nature of interactions change when colleagues are physically remote and there is less dynamic, spontaneous communication — “Having supportive colleagues in the workplace is key to feeling less isolated when working from home,” and that:

Neuroscience research has found that only in-person interactions trigger the full suite of physiological responses and neural synchronization required for optimal human communication and trust-building, and that digital channels such as videoconferencing disrupt our processing of communicative information. impoverished virtual interactions can lead to static and siloed collaboration networks, workers with a diminished sense of belonging to their organization, and social and professional isolation.

Therefore, more effort is needed to compensate for the difficulty of distance interactions and work relationships. A key policy that leads to better results, peer recognition is important for creating better remote work results.

Recognition of remote and hybrid workers is a strong form of personal communication

In recent years, remote employees have been more likely to feel left out and criticized behind their back than their office peers. A study discussed in a 2017 Harvard Business Review article found that remote workers worry that co-workers say bad things slyly about them, make changes to projects without telling them in advance, lobby against them, and don’t fight for their priorities. Some of these things may happen in current times as well.

Rachel Montañez has a more positive view based on her deep international experience:

employee recognition programs — including thank-you notes, milestone celebrations, and employee-appreciation events — can help provide opportunities for remote teams to celebrate and for leaders to help embed recognition into the company culture.

The authors recommend 7 steps managers can take to make their remote employees feel included and cared for, including the actions below. Individual team members can engage in most of these activities as well:

  1. Check in with distant team members regularly and frequently.
  2. Include some face time for contacts with peers, even if it’s on video conference or phone contact, preferably with a visible person via WhatsApp or similar.
  3. Show strong communication skills as an example for team members, eg as good listeners, communicating trust and respect, inquiring about workload and progress, as well as personal news.
  4. Make expectations clear.
  5. Be available to remote team members through a variety of channels during those individuals’ working hours, no matter the time zone.
  6. Show they are familiar and comfortable using video conferencing technologies and channels.
  7. Prioritize relationships. Team building and camaraderie are important for any team, but good managers go out of their way to form personal bonds with remote employees. They use check-in time to ask about their personal life, families, and hobbies. They designate team meeting time for “water cooler” conversation so that the whole team can create personal connections and strengthen relationships.

In addition, team managers should initiate an active program of peer recognition that will be instrumental in strengthening the relationships between team members. In several ways, peer recognition is a form of workplace communication, both between the giver and receiver, and also for observers to learn from.

Build a stronger recognition strategy to include peer recognition for creating better remote work and satisfaction

The 2022 Gallup-Workhuman report, “Transforming workplaces through recognition,” includes the five following steps to build a better recognition strategy:

  1. Make recognition accessible. The easier it is for managers and employees to give their team members recognition, the more they will do it. Make sure there are easy ways to give all types of recognition and that managers are equipped with the resources they need — both in time and money — to make recognition count. Peer recognition has become increasingly important as employees become located far afield. Ensure sufficient support to include peer recognition in employee engagement activities.
  2. Make recognition an important part of the culture. Take recognition from an activity to a core value by embedding recognition in the culture. Make recognition a ritual: Make it a daily habit but also set aside designated times and events to highlight it and make it special.
  3. Train managers. Managers are an important conduit of recognition for employees. Set the expectation of providing recognition regularly, but also teach managers how to do it well. Educate them on the impacts of recognition and options for providing it in the workplace. Guide them with specific actions to motivate employees and build strong teams through positive feedback.
  4. Model the behavior. Leaders must set the example by providing recognition themselves. Recognize managers — they often receive the least recognition. Send recognition all the way down the chain to frontline employees; leaders’ gratitude and acknowledgment can make all the difference in their experience at work. Let employees know that what they do is important.
  5. Prioritize recognition. Give the recognition strategy the attention it warrants. Set aside the time, money and energy needed to get it right. Audit the organization’s current state of recognition – is it having the impact it should? What could take it further? Make smart investments and set them up for success by thinking through implementation thoughtfully and making them integral to the culture.

Further reading

You can read more about how to give a colleague recognition in my article, “Show appreciation as well as recognition to your co-workers“, and my other articles on the topic of employee recognition. I have also written a helpful ebook, Employee Recognition – The secret to great team performance, based on my experience in initiating recognition programs as a manager and consultant. The conclusions in this material reflects the fact that peer recognition creates better remote and hybrid work results.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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